Zeami Motokiyo is the foremost playwright of classical Japanese noh theatre. Born in Nagoya in 1363, Japan, Zeami was introduced to theatre at a young age, as his father Kan'ami was a well-respected actor who led his own theatre troupe, even performing for the shogun (military ruler). From an early age, he was recognized for his aesthetic skills, and received patronage in 1374--an honor that allowed him to be a professional actor.
Eventually, Zeami took over the troupe after his father died. He turned his attention to writing, and wrote both noh dramas as well as treatises on theatre. While it is difficult to determine exactly how many plays he wrote, most scholars agree that Zeami has at least 50 works in his canon. In his treatises, Zeami laid out the dramaturgy of noh plays, from the construction of the narrative to the style of poetry to the aesthetic ideal of yugen ("mysterious beauty). The material for Zeami's plays came from Japanese folk tales, Chinese literature, the great Japanese epics (The Tale of Genji and The Tales of the Heike), and the philosophies of both Buddhism and Shinto.
While Zeami was a beloved artist in Japanese society, he fell out of favor with the shogun and was ultimately exiled on Sado Island. He eventually returned to the Japanese mainland in 1441 after the shogun was assassinated, and most likely lived in the care of his family until he died in 1443.
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